After a tearful ceremony, a heartless theft

Bell stolen shortly after its installation


The story of a new playground, named for a 6-year-old victim of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December, ended on a sour note when thieves stole the centerpiece of the playground — an inscribed bell — not long after the opening ceremony ended.

A number of Island Park residents helped build the memorial last weekend at Masone Beach, and dedicated it to Caroline Previdi, one of the 26 students and teachers who died in the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. The playground featured a large bell, inscribed with the number 26 and the words, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.”

The bell was stolen sometime between Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m., police said.

The playground was the brainchild of Newtown resident Bill Lavin, who decided that he would “pay forward” all the help his community received by coordinating the construction of playgrounds in communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The playgrounds are funded by the communities themselves, with Island Park participants planning to raise $7,000 to create the next playground, which is tentatively scheduled to be built in Breezy Point, Queens. The money to build the Island Park playground came from a shore community in New Jersey.

Kathy Cleary is the local coordinator for the program. “Caroline was a huge Yankee fan,” Cleary said this week. “She was also an avid swimmer, and it is fitting that this playground in Island Park be named in her honor.”

Because Caroline Previdi loved pink and Yankee blue, the park features those colors. The playground was built by firefighters, police officers, teachers and other volunteers.

The Nassau County Police Department’s 4th Squad is investigating the theft of the bell.